Cruise ships have embraced celebrity chefs, not only to design their menus but also to be on board for special events and occasionally to lead shore excursions. Some of the top chefs linked with cruise lines include Curtis Stone with Princess Cruises, Luke Mangan and Marco Pierre White with P&O, Luke Nguyen with APT, Mark Best with the Holland America Line and Jamie Oliver with Royal Caribbean.
Expect anything and everything on the food front. Meet-and-greet sessions with celebs, master classes, chef’s-table dinners, cooking classes, demonstrations, special dinners, fine dining, visits to world-class wine areas, as well as seats at the best restaurants in ports of call, are all highly anticipated on food cruises.
River cruises in Europe, along the likes of the Danube and Rhine, provide a perfect opportunity to try regional produce and wines in quaint villages and small towns. The ship’s chefs can often pick up fresh local produce to be enjoyed on board and there are opportunities to go to markets.
Countries visited may include Germany, Austria, Hungary, Switzerland and France. And don’t forget a cruise along the Italian coastline where stops at the likes of Portofino, Sorrento, Naples and Capri will reveal some spectacular food, sometimes as simple as a margherita in a local pizzeria or your favourite gelato.
Sail from Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne or Perth on short round-trip food cruises that go out to sea, as well as others that visit Aussie wine and food areas such as Margaret River and the Barossa Valley.
Marlborough will be on the itinerary of any self-respecting wine and food cruise to New Zealand. At the top of the South Island, this region is famed for its sauvignon blanc and is also home to the green-lipped mussel. The vineyards of Hawke’s Bay, pinot noir and lamb in Central Otago, and Bluff oysters from Southland are other delights to be savoured.
If travelling with Silversea you’re in luck – the cruise line has Le Champagne restaurants on its ships, the only Relais & Chateaux restaurants at sea. Crystal Cruises has a partnership with famed Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa who has two restaurants on board: Silk Road and The Sushi Bar. They are his only ventures at sea. P&O features the Salt grill by Sydney’s Luke Mangan, and Royal Caribbean has Jamie Oliver’s restaurant, Jamie’s Italian.
The high-end and specialty restaurants on cruise ships aren’t usually included in the fare, so budget for extra spending if you plan on some fine dining. Despite the surcharge, these restaurants are generally very popular and it is wise to book well ahead. Check if your ship conducts tours of the galley – many do. It’s fascinating to see how meals for so many passengers come together.